A review of reviews: Les Heures de Cartier: L’Heure Perdue XI Cartier (2015).

Les Heures de Cartier: L'Heure Perdue XI Cartier for women and men

This fragrance was one of two in the free preview of the 2018 edition of “Perfumes: The Guide” to receive a 5 star rating (from Luca Turin), and since I probably enjoy fragrances with a noticeable vanilla note as much as anyone, I thought this is one I needed to write about, though buying a bottle is a different matter (Cartier web site price is $275; on ebay I saw one for $179, both 75 ml).  And with this one, you don’t get a list of notes, but instead (on the Cartier site and elsewhere):

…powdered with HELIOTROPIN elegance, from someone else’s desire? Voluptuous and intimate MUSCENONE like the scent of knowledge. Perhaps because everything is ruled by science, so clever in posing as natural when in fact it is a feat of alchemy, exploring the artificial through a precipitate of large synthetic molecules, particularly VANILLIN. This aldehyde with sensual aromas and a silky aura floating over the 11th hour, the lost and progressive hour, demystifying the conventional idea that beauty is only worthwhile if it is NATURAL.

First I want to address Luca Turin’s review.  As you might expect, it was composed by a perfumer he has high regard for (Mathilde Laurent), and was recommended to sample by a reader of LT’s blog.  This person used evocative language when describing it, including “most evocative” and, “like a memory you can’t quite place, but are certain to have lived.”  How could such a scent not be magnificent (sarcasm alert!)?  LT tells us that it’s “heaven-scent and disquieting in equal parts,” and this reminds me of his review of Bvlgari Black (I liked the idea of BB, but found it just a bit too simplistic).  We are told it has an oriental drydown featuring vanilla, labdanum, and praline.  He says the praline is fresh, but I’ve never encountered such a thing; perhaps he means that some of the top notes persist, such as what he claims is grapefruit.

Now this is a fragrance I wouldn’t mind sampling; I might think it’s worth buying (if the price ever comes way down) or I might dislike it (heliotrope notes are not my favorite unless they are subordinate).  However, let’s take a look at the Fragrantica reviews, beginning with a negative one:

L’Heure Perdue opens both acidic and vanillic and a bit cardboardy musty. The scent alters between sour and cardboardy vanilla…  Not my thing, had to scrub it off due to the acidic notes underneath.

The review of another could be positive, if you like the smell of Dove soap:

This smells a bit like Dove soap. If you’ve been dying for the perfume version of this classic, give it a sniff.

One that is positive actually doesn’t begin with a description that sounds all that laudatory:

Generally, I can’t stand anything that smells too heavily of vanilla. But while L’Heure Perdue does smell sweet and vanillic, it also smells really weird. Like glue or rubber. But powdery. The parts are familiar, but they’ve been reconfigured in totally new ways…

Now to be fair the idea behind it seems to have been to use synthetics to create an “abstract” but not “synthetic” or “chemical” fragrance.  The problem there is that some are very sensitive to certain aroma chemicals, and so I would like the company to disclose if particular ones were used in large amounts (I’m not going to hold my breath on that happening, as you might guess).  But LT compares it to Jicky and Habit Rouge!  It sounds to me like it could be similar, in terms of the general idea, to Reveal by CK (the “feminine”), where there’s something familiar (vanilla and sandalwood) with something odd added (a marine type note, clearly an aroma chemical or chemials).  Spending more time/effort and money on such a composition might indeed result in something quite interesting, though I think for me if there are some strong aroma chemical elements to it (which seems to be the case) it might be an unpleasant experience.

This is also an example of the “disconnect” between people like LT and myself. From what he has written, it doesn’t seem like he will wear this scent at least a few times a year, if he ever wears it again, but he probably got at least a free sample of it.  If this scent was priced lower, I would likely try to swap for a bottle, and if that didn’t work out, I’d wait for it to get to that point where it was at its lowest and buy one.  But given the pricing, I might never be able to acquire a bottle reasonably, and so I would not be interested in sampling, because I already have so many vanillic fragrances I can’t imagine thinking that I “need” another, even if it is different.  The reviews do not sound good to me.  I’m not a fan of “oddball” fragrances, and I’ve already got a few of those, such as Perry Ellis for Men (2008), which lists notes of, “grapefruit, woody accords, resins, iris root, leather and musk.”  The drydown, however, features an ambery/vanillic element along with some sort of marine type chemical (reviewers have called it blood-like or copper-ish, as in an old penny).  It cost me about $8 for a nearly full 100 ml bottle.

Is L’Heure Perdue XI better than this Perry Ellis scent?  That’s where I have major problems with fragrance reviews.  Does anyone doubt that LT would say yes?  But to me what matters is whether I find the drydown to be pleasant (assuming they all have at least decent strength).  If I like both, and they aren’t similar to something I’ve already got, then I’ll try to obtain a bottle in what I consider a reasonable way.  If I could only buy the PE scent for around $12 or more I would not own it now.  I simply have too many at this point to place much emotional (or other) investment in any one.  If offered enough money (within reason, though) I don’t think I’d have a problem selling any or a bunch of my bottles.  By contrast, some people (apparently LT), sample a fragrance, find it to be “artistic” and then talk about how great it is, but do they wear it on any kind of regular basis?  I think we are back to my old post about the “niche sampler” phenomenon, which I believe I observed on Basenotes.  That involved people doing a lot of sampling of less common, more expensive scents, talking about how great they were, but over time a bitter tone to their reviews emerged, along with claims about the “death” of the “art of perfumery.”  My question to them would be, since you’ve claimed to enjoy so many fragrances in past reviews, why don’t you just wear them and stop sampling/complaining?  Clearly, they were not thinking about or using these olfactory concoctions the way I do, nor in a way I suspect most people do!

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

2 responses to “A review of reviews: Les Heures de Cartier: L’Heure Perdue XI Cartier (2015).

  1. DDJ

    I’ve been subscribed to your blog via email for a while now although it’s only been in the recent past that I’ve begun reading them each in detail.

    I subscribe to literally dozens of perfume blogs, in many languages, from all over the world…. and I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air your views and approach are.

    Your last few posts have been cases of writing *exactly* ideas that I could only vaguely imagine, but failed to articulate.

    …. Thank you for a little sanity in the current perfume disaster.

    Best Regards, David

    • Hi David. I’m glad I was able to provide you with different and helpful insights! I’m not sure I’d say things are disastrous, though, because there are a huge number of options and I still get great deals on ebay. Even if I don’t like the fragrance, I can then swap it for something I do want but is priced too high. However, I can understand how someone just starting out might be overwhelmed and possibly go on a spending spree that they might regret just a few months later. Also, I do think a lot of rich newbies took up the hobby within the last several years. If not, it’s difficult to understand who is buying all these niche and exclusive scents. In any case, this has caused a kind of schism, where you have people like myself, who enjoy variety and are mostly interested in the drydown (and generally acquire bottles at low prices), as opposed to people like Turin, who seem to enjoy sampling expensive fragrances on paper, but then only actually wear a small number of fragrances the vast majority of the year (he can correct me if I am wrong about this; just leave a message!).

      They think they are experiencing “art” with some fragrances, whereas I think of it as a craft, and don’t think it’s an especially difficult one (for those who are trained, of course). Yes, the top notes may be quite interesting, but again, that is nearly irrelevant to me. Where I take issue with people like LT is that then seem to tend to: 1. Not disclose how they sample fragrances. 2. Not disclose if they sample new fragrances in the exact same way. 3. Not disclose if they ever sample in a non-biased way (“blind testing”). 4. Not disclose how much they value the drydown relative to the top notes. 5. Not disclose how they assess a unique/”artistic” first half hour as opposed to how pleasant the drydown is. Once you realize they are likely catering to rich, newbie readers, then things begin to make sense, from what I can tell, but people like myself might be misled into thinking that their reviews are special or should be taken more seriously than reviews that appear to be thoughtful, on sites like BN and Fragrantica.

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